I’ve been reading graphic novels of all stripes for years now – from heartbreaking immigrant sagas to silly-wonderful middle grade romps! But one subgenre I haven’t read much of (mostly due to personal preference, tbqh) is that of contemporary adult. This genre finds its material in laying bare the mundane, everyday pain/joy of living. And if more of them are like Ingrid Chabbert’s Waves, illustrated by Carole Maurel, I’ve been missing out.

waves by ingrid chabbert, illustrated by carole maurel cover
A young woman and her wife's attempts to have a child unfold in this poetic tale that ebbs and flows like the sea.

After years of difficulty trying to have children, a young couple finally announces their pregnancy, only to have the most joyous day of their lives replaced with one of unexpected heartbreak. Their relationship is put to the test as they forge ahead, working together to rebuild themselves amidst the churning tumult of devastating loss, and ultimately facing the soul-crushing reality that they may never conceive a child of their own.

Based on author Ingrid Chabbert’s own experience, coupled with soft, sometimes dreamlike illustrations by Carole Maurel,
Waves is a deeply moving story that poignantly captures a woman’s exploration of her pain in order to rediscover hope.

Waves tells the story of a personal tragedy – the sort of horrible, catastrophic loss and aftermath that can happen to anyone, no matter their privilege or any other factor. When a young queer couple lose their long-awaited baby, the aftermath of lost dreams and plans stretches into empty space and feels like the end of hope. Chabbert’s story, based in part on her own experience, depicts small moments of connection in therapy, in community with others who have experienced the same loss, and through expansive visual and textual metaphors for grief.


While Waves is primarily concerned with miscarriage, it is also about life, and how it changes and diverges from the paths and plans we make for ourselves, and how people carry on in the face of the unimaginable, personal tragedies of life. I think it is especially apt after such a collective grief moment (or denial thereof) as we have experienced with the recent pandemic. The book contains no names, except for the doctor, which gives it a purposeful anonymity or anybody-ness. In the aftermath of the loss, an encounter with a dog at the shore allows an unburdening and is a meditation on who we tell our stories to, when they are not happy or silly or perfect.


Maurel’s art is pen and ink, colored in watercolors – bright but not too bright. Some panels are purposefully left black and white, with only an object or two in color, highlighting specific actions. The linework is gorgeous, and Maurel particularly succeeds with the shadows and lighting in the underwater page spreads. The art, as always with graphic novels, is a star and a focus, and in this case it seems to effortlessly mesh with the text, drawing out emotion. If this book doesn’t make you cry, I’ll have questions.


In all, Waves is an intensely moving and beautiful depiction of one of the most haunting, everyday losses in life, and one that does not often find its way into graphic novels, much less so beautifully, gracefully, and with so much care.


Recommended for: fans of Lucy Knisley’s memoirs, the recent (and excellent!) Stone Fruit, and anyone who appreciates art that treats tough topics with a deft hand.

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